Expanded Insurance Coverage in Massachusetts Did Not Increase Addiction Treatment

A Massachusetts law passed in 2006 that expanded insurance coverage did not lead to an increase in the number of state residents who received inpatient treatment for drug and alcohol abuse at state-contracted facilities, according to a new study.

The study’s authors say their findings indicate that increasing coverage is not enough to boost treatment use. “Changes in eligibility, services, financing, system design, and policy may also be required,” they note in the journal Health Affairs.

The number of admissions for substance use disorders at treatment centers in Massachusetts held steady at slightly more than 100,000 per year between 2006 and 2010, The Boston Globe reports.

Lead author Victor Capoccia of the University of Wisconsin-Madison told the newspaper that Massachusetts has a better system of care than many states. He noted his findings should serve as a warning to other states that simply expanding insurance under the Affordable Care Act starting in 2014 will not be enough to provide patients the care they need.

Michael Botticelli, Director of the Massachusetts Bureau of Substance Abuse Services, said it can be difficult to get people with substance use disorders, particularly young adults, to enroll in health insurance plans, even if they qualify for assistance. “Self-care behavior is not the hallmark of people with addictive disorders,” he said. Botticelli added the state is trying to get more addiction services into primary care settings.

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    terry griffin

    May 22, 2012 at 11:01 AM

    Did the Massachusetts health insurance connector policies require mental health/addiction parity?

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    May 9, 2012 at 2:25 PM

    I am not surprised they found that insurance coverage made little difference in the numbers in state funded treatment.
    I presume they controlled in some way for possible reductions in state funding for treatment services.
    A lot of users just don’t think they need treatment, no matter what insurance bennies might be available. Then there is the fact that many folks who need treatment don’t have private insurance. Less than 2/3 of employers provide insurance, and then there are those without a job. So insurance coverage would only affect a fraction of the population that might need treatment.
    Finally,they only looked at state contracted programs, they did not look at privately funded agency admissions. N-SSATs could have given them some indication of whether any new private agencies came on line, and if clients in treatment (but not admissions) in both public and privately funded agencies had increased.

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